There are brown signs off the motorway now for the Lakeland Penninsulars. What are they? – well, presumably Cartmel, Furness and Copeland. Lancashire previously hosted Furness and Cartmel and hence they are included in this walk. Today I’ll briefly cover the Cartmel Peninsula which I reached by train although travellers of old, on foot, would have taken the perilous crossing of the Kent Estuary. From the station at Grange, I walk into the bustling town, but only as far as S Cafe in one of the Victorian Arcades, opposite the duck pond. Once that coffee pleasantry was over a short walk up Windermere Road and I took a signed path into Eggerslack Woods. Hampsfield rather than Hampsfell though I hoped they would be the same. This is limestone country encircling the southern Lake District. For about a mile I followed a good path through trees; birch, holly and yew. I suspect that this area would have been heavily coppiced in the past perhaps for bobbins for the textile mills and for wood for charcoal burning,
Climbing a stile suddenly brings you out onto the open fell with paths going everywhere. I select a well-walked route that fortunately steers me directly to the Hospice on the summit. I kept looking behind as views over the Kent Estuary opened up with Arnside Knott dominating the coast. I was last here whilst exploring the ‘Wainwright Outlying Fells’ 4 years ago almost to the day so I won’t repeat all the information. For more history look here. The shelter was erected in 1846 by a vicar from Carmel for the benefit of walkers so is not a hospice in the traditional sense. From up here, I can see down into Cartmel with the Priory prominent and behind Mount Barnard where perhaps the first priory was established. That visit 4years ago also included an ascent of Cartmell Fell from a little church that happens to be a Chapel of Ease to today’s priory.
A steep descent brings you into the back of the village and directly to Cartmel Priory. As I entered through the graveyard I noticed that a large fenced off area of graves is grazed by sheep, unusual. The priory was established by William Marshall in 1188 and now all that remains is the church and a gatehouse. The Augustinians had allowed the locals to worship here and at Dissolution, the church was spared even if its roof was destroyed. A benefactor, George Preston of nearby Holker Hall, reroofed the church in the C17. The exterior of the priory is noted for the upper tower built diagonally on the Norman one.
Once inside the grandeur of the church is revealed – a massive nave with a dominant East Window containing medieval glass. The choir stalls from the C13 – 14 are famous for their mouldings and inventive misericords. The wood has an ancient feel to the touch.
Elsewhere is the elaborate tomb of Lord Harrington who may have slain the last wolf in the kingdom. at nearby Humphrey Head. There are graves to people lost in crossing the sands of Morecambe Bay. At one time the Priory was responsible for providing guides for those crossings. Skull and crossbones decoratives are on several graves.
In a corner of the church is an alcove with a loaf of bread bequeathed by Rowland Briggs in the C18 to the poor of the parish and the tradition is maintained to this day.
Completing the interest is Cromwell’s Door which shows bullet holes either fired by villagers on the Roundheads or by the visiting army itself.
The only other original remnant of the priory is the Gatehouse on the edge of the village square. Everywhere was busy with festive celebrations.
From the village square, with its ancient cross, I walked across the racecourse to join a track going all the way to Holker Hall. Holker Hall was closed and nothing can be seen of it from the road although the estate buildings are of interest. Down the road, I walked into Cark alongside the River Eea on its way from Cartmell to the Leven Estuary. The station at Cark was soon reached concluding a short but enjoyable stroll of considerable interest.